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Era of dominance Could Be In Store For Real Madrid

Real Madrid could afford to draw their final game of the season, having ultimately ambled to the League title. It had been a close fought race for much of the campaign, with Barcelona leading for much of the season after early challengers Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, and surprise packages Granada fell away. This may be the last time for a while La Liga is particularly close run.

Looking at the landscape of La Liga, Los Blancos could be set to dominate the league like they did in the 60’s. (Image: Al Jazeera)

Madrid won the league title conceding just 25 goals, the meanest defense in the top 5 European leagues, 2 less than notoriously stubborn neighbors Atleti. That’s largely down to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (formerly of Aleti) becoming comfortable, and the world class partnership of Varane and Ramos. Ramos has been on fire at the other end too, scoring 13 goals so far in all competitions, 11 in the league, more than Barcelona’s star striker Antoine Griezmann. The two middle men are flanked by the reliable Carvajal and one of Ferland Mendy or Marcelo. The Eder Militao serves as back up, as youngster who looks set to be a world class player.

That’s something Real Madrid have subtly been doing better than Barcelona in recent years. The balance of galacticos and ones for the future. Since bringing in Suarez and Neymar, most of Barcas big signings have been more hit than miss. Coutinho spent his time on loan, Dembele never got going, Vidal has been past his prime for a few seasons now, Griezmann doesn’t seem to fit into the team. The most recent transfer debacle has been letting young prodigy Melo Arthur go to Juventus in place of 30-year-old Pjanic. Looking at Barcelona’s line-up for next season as things stand, Lenglet and De Jong are the only relatively new faces to get excited about. And then there’s Messi, who is apparently fed up. If Messi doesn’t perform, this Barca team is average.

Whereas for Real Madrid, they have talented youngsters in Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo, and Federico Valverde to work along side the old guard of Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema (the most underrated striker in world football), and Luka Modric. If Eden Hazard can stay fit, he will likely hit the ground running next season. Luka Jovic is the odd one out, and looks like he may be on his way. And as always there’s speculation surround Mbappe joining and the signings of young guns like Camavinga and Soumare.

It’s not just the players, they have what they for so long were missing. A manager the players want to play for. So often in the past it was a case of a bit of success, then the players get tired of playing for the coach. That hasn’t happened in either of Zidane’s two spells. The players love him, and will run through a wall for him. You could see Madrid enjoyed their football. And he’ a winning coach. 3 Champions Leagues in a row and now the first league title of the decade.

It may not be the best time to be a neutral, Germany, Italy, and France already have been largely dominated by the same team. We could be adding Spain to that list soon. Real Madrid are in the best shape of any La Liga team.

Barcelona are being held together by sellotape. Other big names like Sevilla, Villarreal, and Valencia lack star power. Real Sociedad are an exciting young team, but could see their talent poached. Atleti are ones to be curious about, but have a bit of a rebuilding job on their hands and can’t seem to hold onto key players. They finished 17 points behind their rivals.

The Champions League may be something of a last hoorah for Barcelona, but the one-off game format possibly suits a team like Real, who have quality and momentum.

At the end of the decade, we could be asking who could knock Real Madrid off their perch.

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La Liga Big Guns Back In Action

Real Madrid returned to La Liga action in Zinedine Zidane’s 200th game in charge of the team. The game was held in the Real’s training base, which is usually the home of Real Madrid B.

The change of surroundings didn’t have much impact on Real early on as Toni Kroos fired home after 4 minutes. It was the kind of strike that showed Kroos must have been starving for football to return. That’s the German’s 6th goal this season, a personal best for his time at Madrid. A Sergio Ramos header and Marcelo thunderbolt meant Real had the win wrapped up despite the best efforts of struggling Eibar.

Eibar played with a high defensive line and pressed all over, and did cause trouble in the first half despite going 3 – 0 down. Pedro Bigas got one back on the hour mark as the home side faded.

The concern for Real will be that Eden Hazard limped off. The Belgian winger who signed last summer from Chelsea has been hampered all season by injuries. As expected a few players struggled, having gone so long without proper training. Marcelo appeared to be experiencing dizziness in the 2nd half.

Zidane is the 3rd manager to reach the 200th game milestone. Vicente del Bosque managed Los Blancos for 246 games, and Miguel Munoz was at the helm for 605 matches. Zidane has won 10 trophies in his two spells as Real Madrid manager, including lifting the Champions League on 3 consecutive occasions. The only major trophy he has been involved in as a manager but is yet to win is the Copa del Rey, a trophy that also alluded him as a player.

Barcelona remain top of La Liga, 2 points clear of Real Madrid. The league leaders took just 66 seconds to open the scoring, Arturo Vidal heading them in front. Former Middlesbrough forward Martin Braithwaite opened his account for Barcelona with a goal before half time.

In the second half Jordi Alba sealed the win with a third. Luis Suarez made his return from injury, making his first appearance since January. Late on Messi scored his 20th league goal of the season with an assist from Suarez.

Atletico Madrid continue in their hunt for Champions League football next season, but couldn’t move into the top 4 after being held to a draw at the San Mames against Athletic Bilbao. Munian put Bilbao in front, before the home side were pegged back two minutes later. Diego Costa equalized, and celebrated by holding up a shirt paying tribute to Atletico women’s star Virginia Torrecilla, who recently had an operation to remove a brain tumor.

Sevilla and Real Sociedad occupy 3rd and 4th spot. Sevilla are 5 points clear of 5th having played a game more, with Sociedad one point ahead of Getafe and Atletico Madrid. Granada, Valencia, and Villarreal are all in contention for European football.